'Islamic State cannot be defeated by military action alone'

Leaders of two of Britain’s major Churches say that the UK Government must not give into the rhetoric that Islamic State can simply be bombed out of existence.

In a statement released today, leaders of the Baptist Union of Great Britain and the Methodist Church in Britain say that the case for military intervention can only be supported as one part of a broader political and economic strategy to tackle the ideology of IS.

The Churches have issued a briefing on the issues and are urging their members to pray and to write to their MPs asking the Government to offer greater support to refugees from Syria and Iraq as part of such a strategy.

The full statement follows:

The UK Government must treat with caution suggestions that Islamic State could be defeated primarily through military action. An ideology – even one as dangerous and perverse as that of IS – cannot be defeated by the use of weapons. Military action could help to protect persecuted minorities and prevent IS from expanding its control in Iraq. But countering extremist violence in Iraq requires that Iraqis effectively address the underlying grievances that provided support for the rise of IS. The situation in Syria is more chaotic and the effectiveness of external military intervention less certain. Both nations face difficult challenges for which there are no easy solutions.

Military intervention carries huge risks. Any intervention must be legally justified and can only be supported as one part of a broad political and economic strategy which must have the support of countries in the region. It is not certain that the most crucial elements of such a strategy are in place. We recognise the Government’s attempts to involve Iran, but would like to see this on a much broader front, and there are a number of unanswered questions that must urgently be addressed. For example, what is the level of commitment among countries in the region to take steps to prevent the funding of violent extremism - not only in Iraq and Syria but more broadly?

The international community also has a key role to play in documenting human rights abuses and challenging the culture of impunity that allows such atrocities to occur.

We are grateful that the Government has agreed to provide resettlement for some Syrian refugees, but to date only a handful have been resettled in the UK. This does not even begin to scratch the surface of the level of need and further support must be extended to displaced people from both nations, in the UK and elsewhere. Meanwhile we welcome the contribution of the UK Government to the support of millions of displaced persons and refugees who remain in the region.

As Christians we stand with those who are abused, persecuted and marginalised, whatever their faith or ethnicity. We pray that leaders in government who grapple with seemingly impossible situations will be guided by God’s wisdom and peace. We will continue to pray for peace, to work towards greater understanding between peoples of all faiths and none, and to advocate for the needs of those most marginalised.

The Revd Lynn Green
General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain

The Revd Ken Howcroft
President of the Methodist Conference

Ms Gill Dascombe
Vice-President of the Methodist Conference 

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